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Some time ago I've downloaded the Demo for the game "Observer" on the Steam platform. I didn't play it immediately though. A few weeks ago I wanted to give it a try and was shocked to find a Purchase button instead of a Play button. The support from Steam explained to me that the demo was removed by the publisher. I understand that the demo therefore is no longer available in the Steam store. However, the demo was already downloaded to my PC and was in a playable state at some point. Is it legal for Steam to disable content on my PC?

I should point out that this question is not about the legality of the publisher removing their content from the Steam platform. But the publisher would technically not be able to disable the demo without the help from Steam.

Another pecularity I don't want to withhold is that the support from Steam insists, that nothing has been disabled on my PC! That the demo is no longer playable seems not to constitute a disablement in the eyes of the Steam support. But hey, maybe this wordgame has legal consequences I don't understand.

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Yes, it is legal for Steam to disable content on your PC because when you downloaded the Demo for the game "Observer", you "clicked through" and agreed to either a TOS (Terms of Service) and/or a EULA (End User License Agreement) which was a legally binding contract.

That contract stated the terms of use of the demo and when Steam can disable or expire the demo, as well as the fact that Steam can change the terms of the contract itself. Steam can close your entire account if they choose for any of very wide ranging reasons, as outlined in the contract.

The demo wasn't your property; it was software licensed to you by Steam, and they can delete or disable as outlined in the contract.

Steam will be very careful, however, to not delete or damage anything else you have installed, or Windows itself, while respecting the Microsoft Windows TOS/EULA.

Take some time to read the TOS and/or EULA for Steam, or any software for that matter; you'll see that in most cases, you only have a license to use the software, and don't actually own the software and don't have a right to modify it.

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  • As far as I'm aware, contracts can't just say whatever they want.
    – user253751
    Feb 24, 2021 at 21:05
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    Of course they can't; I'm assuming the common knowledge that contracts cannot contract for anything illegal. Steam's contracts will of course be vetted by their legal department for international validity. Feb 24, 2021 at 21:07
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    If you read a contract and dislike a clause, don't sign the contract. If you see a clause you think is illegal (that they're not allowed to say), then either a) don't sign the contract, or b) file suit to "quiet the question". The suit (and concomitant publicity) will make the publisher revisit whether they even really need that clause in there (i.e. is it worth fighting over). If so, a judge will rule whether it's a valid clause or not, and if you win, the clause will be gone Feb 24, 2021 at 22:52
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica I believe even the "if you don't like it don't sign it" argument has been shot down in some circumstances. It's far from automatic.
    – user253751
    Feb 25, 2021 at 9:27
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    @user253751 Certainly, if you sign a contract with a clause forbidden by law, you can escape that clause. But only if you win. That is a painful and tortuous path to the destination. My point is, you disadvantage yourself by signing then objecting, because "then why'd you sign?" becomes a thing. There are more paths to victory if you seek to quiet the question before you sign. Feb 25, 2021 at 18:41

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